Traveling Wilburys present "Vol. 3"
By Edna Gundersen
The Concordian - November 9, 1990
The Traveling Wilburys, four graying rock heroes who founded a slap-happy garage band, defy all logic. Their second album bears the head-scratching title "Vol. 3."
Rather than splash their considerably familiar names across billboards and Billboard, they lay low under mysterious aliases.
Two years ago, when "Vol. 1" was embraced by fans and critics, they called themselves Lucky, Otis, Charlie T. Jr., Nelson and Lefty. Now George Harrison is Spike, Bob Dylan is Boo, Tom Petty is Muddy and Jeff Lynne is Clayton. The late Roy Orbison, to whom "Vol. 3" is dedicated, was Lefty.
"People already think they've got us in a bag, so we decided to change our names," Harrison explains. Then he changes his story, suggesting that the first batch of Wilburys "are probably trying to do 'Vol. 2.' but we may have to go help them. There's nine of us now."
This brotherhood is serious about its lunacy. Like last time, the Wilburys have concocted a loose, spontaneous rock 'n' roll record. In record time. They wrote, recorded and mixed 15 songs (11 are on the LP) in six weeks. Speedy by industry standards, but a glacial pace compared to that of their Grammy-winning debut, wrapped up in 10 days.
"Last time, it was a pretty rushed affair," Dylan says. "A lot of stuff was just scraped up from the jam tapes. This time, there was a whole lot left over. The songs are more developed. If people liked the first one, they'll love this one."
Dylan, the most skeptical member originally, was the impetus behind "Vol. 3." Harrison recounts this phone exchange: Dylan: "When are we doing another Wilburys record?" Harrison: "Why, do you want to?" Dylan: "Yeah, don't you?" Harrison: "Yeah, I do." Says Harrison, "I think everyone, particularly Bob, was more willing to do it this time. Never having been in a band before, Bob wasn't quite sure what the result would be on the first one. This time, we knew what to expect. Bob was keen to do this one."
Because Dylan's demanding tour schedule limited his participation the first time, he was heavily used during last spring's sessions at Harrison's studio. Consequently, he handles most lead vocals.
"We said we'll get him to put a vocal on everything and decide later where the rest of us should fit in," Harrison says. "But once Bob's vocal is there, it's hard to wipe off, he's got such an exceptional voice."
Another volume may gel in a year or two. Lynne says the group "could go on for a long time. It's a lovely thing, because it's almost like a sideline. All of us on our own would be much more picky and careful about making records."
As Wilburys, they feel none of the spotlight pressure they face in solo outings. "With four people who are all so able, you don't get as hung up on every little decision," Harrison says. "We share the responsibility and hide behind each other." How do four rhythm guitarists make music together?
"We sit around in a circle and just start strumming," Lynne says, laughing. "It is ridiculous. Somebody hits one good chord change and we're singing a little tune over it. It's that simple and quick. One day we did five tunes. Word-wise, Bob is a great person to have in the group because he comes up with lyrics at amazing speed."
Typically a lone writer, Dylan was comfortable collaborating with the Wilburys. "There's very few people you can write with, so when you find those people, you have to have a gracious attitude."
Every Wilbury contributed to each song on "Vol. 3," a more integrated whole than the debut's revolving solo turns.
"Now you can hear what Wilbury music is," Harrison says. "We definitely have a sound." Some tracks were taped live with drummer Jim Keltner. "It made the album a bit more rocking," Harrison says. "It created such a good feeling, making a record the way it was done in the late '50s." Orbison's death in 1988 robbed the Wilburys of its finest voice, but the group never considered replacing him.
"You can't replace Roy," Harrison says. "There's no telling what kind of record we could have made with Roy," Dylan says. "Everyone missed him, but it wasn't like anyone sat around and talked about it."
Says Lynne, "Roy's voice was the best ever. We were all a little intimidated. He'd sing a part and we'd all go, 'Oooh, I hope I don't have to come in after him.'" Despite their warm camaraderie, the Wilburys probably won't tour, Road warriors Petty and Dylan are game, but Lynne is a studio album, and Harrison is a homebody.
"Touring takes a hell of a lot of energy, and you have to put the rest of your life on hold," Harrison says. "I don't see it at the moment, but I'm not against doing a few live shows."